Addressing mental health

Wolfpack program to aid adolescents in West Hempstead

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Behavioral health disorders have become more prevalent in the United States over the past decade, according to a recent study by FAIR Health, a nonprofit organization that collects data for health insurance claims. The study, which examined 28 billion private health care claim records, shows a 108 percent increase in behavioral health diagnoses.

Dr. Tamir Aldad, a mental health physician from North Hills, said he hoped to address this trend through a new program for boys ages 12 to 17.

“A lot of times, I find myself having a lot of adolescent patients with behavioral issues,” Aldad, 34, said. “It could be for a number of reasons, but what I’ve found is that physicians often focus on only treating mental health, but that doesn’t cover everything. We hope to do that through Wolfpack.”

Wolfpack is a for-profit hybrid program, run with CrossFit West Hempstead, that combines a structured fitness regimen with ways to improve mental and emotional well-being. Starting on Aug. 5, it is geared to helping young men improve self-esteem, self-awareness and assertiveness.

“While it’s important to focus on the mind, people don’t realize that the physical aspect is also necessary to develop a well-rounded person,” said Brett Constant, the senior group therapist at CrossFit. “People tend to neglect that, but the way that Dr. Aldad tweaked it, he’s really tapped into the idea of focusing on all phases of a child.”

Constant noted that many adolescents struggle to express themselves. “A lot of them find it very difficult to talk about their experiences or what’s going on at school,” he said. “Oftentimes, they bottle those feelings up and don’t express it until they’re in their 20s and 30s.”

One of the first steps in addressing this, Aldad said, is helping adolescents feel better about themselves while channeling their energy. “What I’ve found is that intensive group therapy is applicable to addressing several mental illnesses,” he said. “It’s a different setting that’s more exciting, and we’re hoping to provide a positive environment for adolescents in the community.”

Aldad’s idea for Wolfpack stemmed from Mindful Urgent Care, a psychiatric clinic he launched in three communities, including West Hempstead, in 2018. The clinic is designed to provide in-network, same-day mental health and addiction treatment. Since its inception, the company has raised roughly $830,000 to help support and grow the program.

“Helping people gain access to health care is what we’re about,” Aldad said. “We were able to open our three locations within a few months, but being able to create resources for children and families — that’s what fuels the fire.”

Aldad and Constant agreed that parent involvement plays a huge role in their program. “Parent participation is easily the biggest part of this program,” Constant said. “We can talk to the kids until we’re blue in the face, but parents have to be able to share that message, too. Even if it’s 10 minutes after a session, taking the time to understand where issues are coming from can go a long way for these kids.”

“At home is a place where a lot of children develop social stresses,” Aldad said. “We want to bridge the disconnect between parents and children.”

Those who are interested in signing up for Wolfpack can go to bit.ly/32FIV3T.